What has Brexit meant to those who import foods from the UK, what obstacles have they needed to overcome, and what’s the way forward? David Bennion and the team at The Trading Post have spent four years planning for this eventuality and tells of us their struggles and successes.
How has Brexit impacted your business?
It’s been very challenging! Since the initial vote there has been a lot of preparation, research, and systems put into place with UK supply partners and product manufacturers. On 1 January 2021 it soon became apparent that all that time had been wasted and, although the deal was ‘tariff free’, the complexity and amount of required paperwork was going to come at significant cost. Out of 40-50 UK suppliers, only one was able to supply the correct information now needed for export straight away! This has improved but it’s been a very steep and expensive learning curve.
What about the additional costs for deliveries of UK goods?
These additional costs arise in four ways:
By buying in bulk we can absorb both of the above costs across 1000’s of products meaning minimal impact to the customer.
As a registered French business we pay TVA anyway – we now just pay as goods arrive in the country. For UK companies posting to France, however, their customers now pay on delivery OR the UK company pays it in advance, increasing the product price to absorb the tax. Therefore, for postal deliveries from the UK, they are now paying UK VAT and French TVA as well as customs clearance fees.
These are outside the scope of the trade deal so, in most cases, we have had to source supply from within the EU or delist the product.
Has your business model changed because of Brexit
Most definitely! When the first lockdown started in 2020, virtually all our trade clients were forced to close. We, like many businesses, started to adapt, and began to offer our products to retail (private) clients. This started as a home delivery service in the Alps but, as we looked to expand this service, it soon became clear that we couldn’t home deliver across France with our own fleet, especially in the more rural areas, unless we added delivery charges or set minimum order levels. This really was something we wanted to avoid. We felt that collection points were the best solution so we began rolling these out in March.
From a small shop in the French Alps in 2006, we now have a new 1200m2 warehouse serving a large area of France via 63 collection points, with more routes and collection points being added.
Which are the most popular products?
The big three are Heinz Baked Beans (over 60,000 tins/year), bacon (some 50 tonnes/year), and sausages (approx. 70 tonnes)! Cheddar, Yorkshire Tea and PG Tips are also popular as are crumpets and vegetarian brands like Quorn and Linda McCartney (we have just been appointed their official French distributor). Other favourites include Bisto, Robinsons Squash and Harry Ramsdens mushy peas. Marmite is more loved than hated it would seem!
First published in the May/June 2021 issue of The Local Buzz
Images: The Trading Post